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Probate Sounds Scary & Expensive. What is it and do I need it?

Debbie Long, Attorney

I get this question all the time. Most people who come in and get wills prepared come in with the idea that probate is a very scary, expensive task and they want to avoid it like the plague. That’s really not the case usually. Especially if you have consulted with an attorney and taken care of some of the things that require very little effort ahead of time but cannot be fixed after you pass away.

The determining factor about whether or not you need to undergo the probate process is not whether or not you have a will. The probate process is very different when you have a will versus when you don’t. The major determining factor is what type assets you have. In some respects, probate is a method to convey title to your assets in an orderly fashion so that the recipient of such property holds proper title without any clouds or liens on the property. Your attorney can advise you whether probate is even necessary in your situation.  

So, your first step is obtain information and call an attorney who can help you to determine whether the decedent has assets that should be included in the Alabama probate estate. Some items that the decedent owned may not be “probate assets” under Alabama law. These “non-probate assets” are not part of the Alabama estate (but may be considered part of the taxable estate for estate tax purposes). You should look at everything the decedent owned to determine which items are Alabama probate assets and which are not. Examples of probate assets include real estate owned only by the decedent, bank accounts in the name of the decedent, and life insurance policies that fail to name a beneficiary or are payable to the estate.  If the decedent owned any of these assets, Alabama probate will probably be required. But with the help of a knowledgeable and helpful attorney, this process can be accomplished without issue. It’s always wise to prepare and make this emotional time less stressful for your family by consulting an attorney and learning what will be helpful in your given situation and would suit your needs.  Information and education is never a bad thing! These estate planning documents are very economical when compared with the hassle and expense your family may suffer trying to probate your estate without them.  

If you have questions about your estate plan or wills, powers of attorney of healthcare directives that you may already have in place but need updating, call and make an appointment.  I would love to talk with you. Give me a call at 256.508.3015 or complete the contact form.

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